Fly Away Home
1996, PG, 110 min. Directed by Carroll Ballard. Starring Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin, Dana Delany, Terry Kinney, Holter Graham.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Sept. 13, 1996
A mother and daughter in a car, talking and laughing in a casually intimate moment brought to a sudden, unexpected end. The sequence is shot in a preternatural silence that suspends it in memory, and it is somehow, briefly, brimming with inaudible love. It is an ending that begins Fly Away Home, a long anticipated companion piece to director Carroll Ballard's 1979 classic, The Black Stallion. Thirteen-year-old Amy Alden (Paquin) survives the car wreck and must leave New Zealand and return to the rural Canadian farmhouse of her eccentric father (Daniels), where everything is much like it was when she and her mother left ten years before. Still, lonely and grieving, Amy is lost there until she discovers a clutch of orphaned eggs in the nearby woods. Carefully transporting them back to the barn in her old baby carrier, she puts them in a makeshift incubator and, soon after, becomes Mother Goose to a gaggle of downy goslings. And that beginning signals the end of Amy's emotional exile. Canada has a law about rendering domesticated geese flightless and unless the geese can join their wild cohorts in migration, their wings must be clipped. Which means that Mother Goose must learn to fly. And, it turns out, an eccentric, inventive father comes in handy in such a circumstance. Amy flies and the movie soars. There is a silly, wondrous magic to the web-footed, waddling creatures and their strange birthright of imprinting, especially in Ballard's sure hands. From gawky, gladdening parades across the grasslands to breathtaking aerial acrobatics, Fly Away Home is a feast for the soul and for the eye. Ballard gives us glimpses of uncommon beauty -- Amy gently nesting each egg, still flecked with damp peat and bits of grass, among her mother's old but still brightly colored scarves; a sudden, heart-stopping swoop from the misty mosaic of the autumn countryside to the glass skyscraper canyon of the city. His touch with the cast is no less deft. Paquin's performance is quite true, her postured, adolescent indifference perfectly at odds with a childlike rapture over her brood. Daniels is affecting and suitably ill at ease with the daughter he barely knows. And Kinney's intellectual Uncle Dave (even goofier than the geese) is a scene-stealer. Together, they make a movie that pays tribute to Ballard's beginnings as a director and promises more wonder before his end.